Allen Craig (ESPN: 17 percent owned; Yahoo!: 26 percent owned)
After undergoing offseason knee surgery, Craig, who hit .263/.417/.737 in the World Series, is finally ready to return to the Cardinals’ lineup. He’s expected to be activated off the disabled list sometime Tuesday, provided he felt no pain following his 3-for-4 performance that included a pair of home runs on Monday night for Triple-A Memphis. Craig was a waiver wire wonder last year, that is, when he was on the field. He started more than 10 games in a month just once in 2011, that coming when he started 17 games in May. His knee is responsible for most of his missed time, so in theory that should be cleared up now that he has had surgery to repair the damage.
2011 was a huge step forward for Craig, who hit .315/.362/.555 over 219 PAs. He has posted strong minor league numbers including a .917 OPS over the course of four seasons at Triple-A, so big league success didn’t simply appear out of nowhere, but was it sustainable? He’ll likely lose some of some of his batting average as his .344 BABIP falls a little closer to .300, but nothing else in his profile looks grossly out of whack. His 18 percent HR/FB ratio does portend at least some regression, but simply getting more than 200 PAs will help Craig keep his HR total up even if the rate falls. HitTrackerOnline pegged only three of his 11 home runs as Just Enough or worse, so he isn’t likely to suddenly see a lot of balls dying on the warning track.
I do have some playing time concerns for Craig, since the Cardinals have their outfield in good shape at the moment. Craig played some 2B last year — enough to gain eligibility there in leagues where five starts or fewer is all that’s necessary — and played 1B during his rehab in the minors, so those spots could be open for Craig at least in the short term, but there’s no spot he’ll walk into Wednesday morning and be guaranteed starts day in and day out. He’s a great 4th OF or MI option for daily leagues since he can be shuffled in or out as playing time dictates, but he strikes me as a poor option for weekly leagues for the time being. If he hits like he did last year and doesn’t succumb to more injuries, I could see Mike Matheny working to keep his bat in the order. If he regresses, his production could crater as he fights for PAs in a Cardinal lineup that isn’t exactly struggling to put up runs.
With a month of the season gone and with the aforementioned playing time concerns, it seems overly bullish to project Craig for anything beyond 17-18 HR. Most of the projections have him in the 15-17 range, a range with which I tend to agree. He’ll throw in a few steals and won’t weigh down either average or OBP too much, all of which makes me like him as a waiver grab in most daily leagues as a solid OF3 or bench option.
Chris Davis (ESPN: 27 percent owned; Yahoo!: 34 percent owned)
One of the question we’ve seen in a few different iterations in the Rotographs mailbag is, “Is Chris Davis for real?” The answer is yes and no. Power hasn’t typically been an issue for Davis, who hit 24 HR in the only season in which he played in more than 80 games, and while his HR/FB rate stands at an untenable 24 percent, I expect him to put up good power numbers for the rest of the season. ZiPS pegged him for 20 HR when the season started, a projection that has been revised up to 24 since the season started. Davis will land somewhere in that range, which qualifies as good power on the wire at this stage of the season.
What I don’t think will stick around is his batting average. Davis is a career .256 hitter, and while his career BABIP is above average at .338, he’s not going to maintain a .375 mark all year. His 28.8 percent LD rate and 8 percent walk rate do give me some pause, and if he can keep both up, I think the coming regression won’t be quite as bad as some have feared, but the regression will still come. Chris Davis is not a .320 hitter; it is possible that he’s a .280+ hitter, but anything higher than that stretches the bounds of belief.
His corner eligibility makes him a useful piece right now; I love the idea of pairing him with someone like Kevin Youkilis or Aramis Ramirez, who looks bad right now, but who will almost certainly rebound when the weather gets warmer. Davis isn’t going to turn into a pumpkin overnight, if his walk rate plummets and his strikeout rate jumps, it’s time to sell. Until then, ride out his hot start until the rest of the league catches up.
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